Letter: Bushrangers of the silver screen

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The Independent Online
Bushrangers of the silver screen

Sir: Peter Porteous's memory (letters 10 August) serves him only half rightly. Peter Finch was certainly a dashing star of the 1957 film of Robbery Under Arms but the fictional Captain Starlight, not the historical Ned Kelly, was the hero of this fourth of five cinematic versions of Rolf Boldrewood's novel: the most recent (1985) had Sam Neill as the Byronic bushranger. Others were made in 1907, 1911 and 1920.

Porteous may have only got as far as Pinewood, but Finch and others in the cast spent several sweaty summer months in South Australia's Flinders Ranges (which for one thing could accommodate a mob of Herefords better than a studio back lot); despite the heat, Finch enjoyed himself, writing to his half-sister he had "lots of riding on the most wonderful horse in the world, Velox", who galloped into the part of Starlight's horse, Rainbow.

Boldrewood, who was in fact Thomas Browne, a magistrate, based his story not on the exploits of Ned Kelly but on those of such other bushrangers as Ben Hall and Frank Gardiner. But the instant popularity of the tale, which was first published as a serial in the Sydney Mail in 1882-83 then as a book in 1888 and has never been out of print since, was at least partly due to the notoriety of the Kelly gang.

ALAN BRISSENDEN

Burnside, South Australia

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